NCAA Hopes New Innovations Add To In-Game Experience During Basketball Tourney
A trip to the NCAA Tournament in the past meant sacrificing updates from other games and instant replays, video elements that are commonplace inside most venues. But that is not the case with the new-look NCAA Tournament. This season’s tournament is taking a more fan-friendly approach to improve the experience for those in attendance with a full array of video, including updates, game highlights and perhaps most importantly for those there -- replays. Working with Van Wagner Big Screen Network, the NCAA is running more replays inside the game venue, and the organization has created March Madness Central, a hub for highlights and score updates from other tournament games. Those video updates are being presented under the “March Madness Central” banner on videoboards that are either permanent in the venue or have been added by Van Wagner BSN. The company also is constructing a 150,000-pound center-hung videoboard in the Georgia Dome for the Final Four, as well as LED scorers tables at arenas and stadiums that do not already have them. “This year, March Madness Central just adds another layer for the fans at the game,” said Van Wagner BSN CEO Paul Kalil. “It really ties together the tournament into one experience for the fans, no matter where they are. Fans don’t have to get scores off their phone or wait until they get home to see highlights.” In addition to the game updates, Van Wagner BSN is producing music videos for each team with integrated highlights, texting and polling questions, flashbacks, classic moments and features on prominent athletes.
CENTRALLY LOCATED: During the 30 minutes between games, producers in the venue can go to March Madness Central for updates, live game action at other venues, sponsor presentations or community announcements. It is going to be done without any announcers this year, but in the future March Madness Central could become a full-blown studio show. “We will provide all the content for video on the screens, for public address, all of the messaging,” Kalil said. Kalil added NCAA Exec VP/Championships & Alliances Mark Lewis and his team have “charged us with elevating the level of fan enhancements and engagements.” He said, “People pay good money to be at the venue and this represents an effort to enhance the value for that entertainment dollar.” The NCAA always has taken a conservative approach to using replays inside the venue because “there are some sensitivities to being there in front of the student-athletes and refs,” Kalil said. But Lewis, who joined the NCAA last April, has spearheaded an effort to make the tournament games more like the experience that fans have on campus, which includes more video. That also will give the NCAA more opportunities to integrate sponsors into the video presentation. Previously, only Powerade had any presence inside the venue, through its red and black courtside coolers.
CREATING THE FINAL FOUR VIDEO BOARD: Van Wagner BSN is central to the enhanced video presentation. It was last year that Van Wagner and Big Screen Networks, previously separate companies, combined forces in a joint venture that essentially made BSN the video and production arm of Van Wagner. BSN has had a relationship with the NCAA for eight years, Kalil said. At the Final Four, Van Wagner BSN will be constructing the eight-sided videoboard for the second time. It built a similar structure for the Final Four last year in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. This will mark the first time the Georgia Dome has used a center-hung board. Each of the 10mm HD panels will measure 16-by-28 feet.